Some Grandma’s Quilt…

Mine Owned a Liquor Store

Okay so actually I had both. My maternal Grandmother was the typical Norman Rockwell painting Grandma. I think she had white hair since birth or at least it seemed that way. She quilted, baked awesome delectable delights all while sharing stories of the of the dust-bowl and coming to Colorado in basically a covered wagon. This post however is not about her.

If you checked out my “Quit Yer Prayin'” post you know the story of my grandma as a little girl. Growing up with my great grandpa running liquor during prohibition eventually opening a liquor store in North Dakota. So it’s no real surprise that for the better half of her life she either owned or ran liquor stores in Colorado. 

I originally wrote this the day before her 94th birthday, so it was for her birthday that put fingers to keys to speak about her.

My first memories of the store grandma ran goes back to early childhood. Growing up in the 70’s was such a different time….and such an awesome time too. My memories are endless with barefoot summer days and playing until you heard mom’s whistle from blocks away. Such a free time. But grandma’s liquor store goes back even earlier.

In the mid 70’s, located about 40 miles Northeast of Denver sat “the Home of 500 Happy People and a Couple of Soreheads” No shit, that’s actually what the welcome sign said leading you into the town when I was 5 years old in 1976.

Grandma and a Happy Customer 1976

At the end of the main road sat a blonde brick building. You had to cross over the railroad tracks to get to it. (So I’m guessing when the train came and you were in need of a drink you were hurtin’.)

This was basically a house that had been converted to a liquor store and the basement was an apartment. This is where my grandma lived and my older siblings and I would spend the occasional weekends and summers.

I’ve heard the stories that I’m too young to remember, where I’d be sat in a whiskey box like you would place your toddler in a laundry basket. For all the patrons to gawk and coo at. I do remember Duke, grandma’s German Shepherd, that watched over us and intimidated the hell out of anyone up to no good. To me he was a teddy bear and completely loving.

As I got older I’d sit propped up at the counter and draw flower pictures with crayons on the brown sacks that grandma would send bottles home with her customers. The shelves were full of bottles shaped like Turkeys and other various things. (Oh to have those bottles now)

A bizarre memory I have that not many my age know about is the introduction of the push button top beer cans. They didn’t last long because you were liable to lose a finger pushing the steel or aluminum top. The reason I remember them….I got in a lot of trouble and probably an ass whopping if the truth be known for pushing the buttons in on the beer on display.

Not sure why grandma sold that liquor store. Could have been her divorce I’ve never really asked. I know that the store still stands with a large edition. I wonder if the owners live in the basement like she did.

As the 80’s began she worked and ran at various other stores closer to Denver. I of course didn’t get the free range of the stores when we’d visit since she wasn’t the owner. We still got some privileges though. I would be sent home with brown fifth bags stuffed with Bubble gum, Tootsie Rolls and Dum-Dums while my adolescent older brother would be handed posters of the latest scantly clad women holding bottles and brews.

One night in the early 90’s at one of her more sketchier stores she was robbed. Being a very stubborn and ballsy women, she of course chased the bad guy. While running after him she fell and tore something in her knee that required surgery. Given her age, the recovery was rough and it was just time to hang it up and retire.

Needless to say I learned a lot about the industry. Maybe not to the extent you would think just being a kid but, I knew early on the names of Jim and Jack and that for a banquet you need Coors. Even today, my brother’s garage is filled with dozens of posters and neon signs almost commemorating the 80’s alcohol industry thanks to our Grandma.

They say things happen in threes…just as I was a 3rd Generation Sailor, Grandma was a 3rd Generation Liquor Store owner. When she finally leaves this world I know I’ll remember her as a tough broad who didn’t take shit from anyone. She dropped F bombs, could dance her ass off and she loved her men…oh yes…like Elizabeth Taylor grandma loved many many men in her lifetime. There are a lot of similarities that I have with her: my mouth, ballsy attitude, and rhythm among other things. HOWEVER, I can also honestly say that I know how to quilt too.

1976 – To have some of these bottle now…….

A few short months after this was published, my grandmother passed away. She was a fighter straight up to the end. I had the honor and privilege to arrange her Catholic mass funeral. I know that is what she wanted.

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